Violence against land defenders

There is important new work on the violence against land defenders worth reading over the summer. Here is a recent article in Global Environmental Change and a write up in The Ecologist with some background to it.

It is not easy reading; nor should it be owing to the continued violence against land defenders, many of whom are Indigenous peoples. Of course, land defenders face challenges on a variety of fronts and this new book on Berta Cáceres does a very good job of positioning land struggles in a broader context. Here is the blurb from the publisher:

Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet

9781788733069-55f995dcba87338d7dd98e1f325d297b

The first time Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres met the journalist Nina Lakhani, Cáceres said, ‘The army has an assassination list with my name at the top. I want to live, but in this country there is total impunity. When they want to kill me, they will do it.’ In 2015, Cáceres won the Goldman Prize, the world’s most prestigious environmental award, for leading a campaign to stop construction of an internationally funded hydroelectric dam on a river sacred to her Lenca people. Less than a year later she was dead.

Lakhani tracked Cáceres remarkable career, in which the defender doggedly pursued her work in the face of years of threats and while friends and colleagues in Honduras were exiled and killed defending basic rights. Lakhani herself endured intimidation and harassment as she investigated the murder. She was the only foreign journalist to attend the 2018 trial of Cáceres’s killers, where state security officials, employees of the dam company and hired hitmen were found guilty of murder. Many questions about who ordered and paid for the killing remain unanswered.

Drawing on more than a hundred interviews, confidential legal filings, and corporate documents unearthed after years of reporting in Honduras, Lakhani paints an intimate portrait of an extraordinary woman in a state beholden to corporate powers, organised crime, and the United States.